Rise from your grave: XCom Returns … Kind of

Way back in July 2008, we discussed the possibility of Bioshock creator 2K Boston working on a new XCom game. This week, 2K confirmed that they are leveraging the XCom license:

2K Games announced that XCOM®, the re-imagining of one of gaming’s most storied and beloved franchises, is currently in development at 2K Marin, the studio behind the multi-million unit selling BioShock® 2.

Death rays away!

War of the Worlds, fool!

It sure has been a while since we played an XCom game! Remember the time Mike made so much money that he broke the game? I wonder what 2K has in store (emphasis added)?

Currently in development exclusively for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and Windows PC, XCOM combines the strategic core of the groundbreaking franchise with a suspense-filled narrative and distills it into a tense and unique first-person shooter experience.

XCOM is the re-imagining of the classic tale of humanity’s struggle against an unknown enemy that puts players directly into the shoes of an FBI agent tasked with identifying and eliminating the growing threat. True to the roots of the franchise, players will be placed in charge of overcoming high-stake odds through risky strategic gambits coupled with heart-stopping combat experiences that pit human ingenuity– and frailty – against a foe beyond comprehension. By setting the game in a first-person perspective, players will be able to feel the tension and fear that comes with combating a faceless enemy that is violently probing and plotting its way into our world.

I don’t like jumping to conclusions, but I confess that I’m a little confused by the decision to turn one of the best Turn-Based Strategy games ever into a story-driven FPS. Personally, a lot of the drama and fun of the original XCom games was the narrative that I created myself from one mission to the next across the campaign to save Earth. I also confess that I find it a bit hard not to be cynical and assume that the retro look and setting were chosen so that assets from Bioshock and Bioshock 2 could be re-used.

On the other hand, the new game could be treated as a kind of prequel that sets up the aliens’ 1999 invasion, and it’s not impossible to get exciting tactical gameplay in a FPS – the SWAT series managed this well enough, for example. Properly done, dealing with the enemies in first-person could be pretty intimidating and fun. Plus, it wouldn’t be the first time that making substantial changes to an old franchise worked out ok.

One way or another, it seems that the old XCom is dead. What do you think of these developments, readers? Is this an opportunity for XCom to be reborn … or should the dead have been allowed to rest?


Back for More: Sea-quels and Spin-Offs

Gamers can look forward to some pretty big-name sequels in the next 12 months or so.

First  up and expected out before the end of 2009 is a sequel to 2007’s Bioshock, a game which is always good for a lively debate at O514. Dakalos thinks its pretty great, I like it but acknowledge its weaknesses, and Rusty thought the plot twist was 100% pure bullshit. Nevertheless, we can all agree that the game had a lot of potential and we’ve been looking forward to seeing what 2K will bring out for the sequel.

Apparently, about ten years have passed since the first game, and recently some strange things have begun to happen. Players will return to Rapture, but will be playing a slightly different role than the last time. The game apparently assumes that you chose the somewhat satisfying “good” ending to Bioshock, as opposed to the entirely lame “evil” one.

While I’m anxious to get back into the water, I do hope that some changes have been made. The gameplay video suggests that combat is pretty much the same, but I do hope that there is now a reason to use plasmids. Beyond a couple of exceedingly simple environmental puzzles, the only other impetus to use your “powers” is the fact that they are kinda neat. In all cases, guns will get the job done just as well. Let’s also hope for fewer broken plasmids, and a final boss that isn’t boring as hell.

A game that has garnered our universal praise is Bethesda’s Fallout 3. Although the story did get pretty weak towards the end, the sheer amount of stuff to see and do in the Wasteland made up for any narrative shortcomings. Now comes word that Bethesda has essentially loaned the license to Obsidian Entertainment, makers of Neverwinter Nights 2 and the terminally flawed Knights of the Old Republic 2. What makes this interesting is that Obsidian is helmed by a number of people who were responsibe for Fallout and Fallout 2 back in the late 1990s.  Chris Avellone, Chris Jones and Feargus Urquhart were all members of the original Black Isle Studios team that first brought gamers to the Wasteland. It should be interesting to see what they do with the franchise in Fallout: New Vegas, scheduled for release in 2010.

New X-COM Game in the Works?

Let's smoke some Mutons!

Dust off your power suit and break out the autocannon – 1Up and Kotaku are reporting that 2K Boston (creators of Bioshock) may be working on a new addition to the venerable X-COM series. This rumour holds at least a little water, given that 2K currently owns the rights to the X-COM franchise, having bought them from Infogrames last year. Furthermore, the job of creating Bioshock 2 has been given to 2K Marin, so the Boston office’s current project is still a mystery. If a sequel is in the works, we can only hope that it sticks to its squad-tactics roots.